Welcome to the reviews and ratings of all the books I read in March 2023.
The end of March didn’t go too well for me as I spent a few days in Las Vegas, but I’m well on my way to reading 50 books this year, just nowhere near the 100 that I got to in 2022.
My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh
Our narrator should be happy, shouldn’t she? She’s young, thin, pretty, a recent Columbia graduate, works an easy job at a hip art gallery, lives in an apartment on the Upper East Side of Manhattan paid for, like the rest of her needs, by her inheritance. But there is a dark and vacuous hole in her heart, and it isn’t just the loss of her parents, or the way her Wall Street boyfriend treats her, or her sadomasochistic relationship with her best friend, Reva. It’s the year 2000 in a city aglitter with wealth and possibility; what could be so terribly wrong?
My rating: ★★★★
I enjoyed this quite a lot for a story where not much really happens. As the title would suggest, the story really does follow the main character as she tries to sleep for a full 12 months. I did find it quite hard to sympathise with her as she lived in an apartment in the Upper East Side of New York with no money worries whatsoever and no responsibilities (one could only dream). But I strangely found myself wanting to keep reading to see how many more pills her eccentric psychiatrist would keep prescribing to her and what would become of her year of rest and blackouts.
Small Things Like These by Claire Keegan
It is 1985, in an Irish town. During the weeks leading up to Christmas, Bill Furlong, a coal and timber merchant, faces into his busiest season. As he does the rounds, he feels the past rising up to meet him – and encounters the complicit silences of a people controlled by the Church.
My rating: ★★★★★
I went into this book not knowing what to expect other than being set in rural Ireland. However, this short book inspired me to look deeper into the goings on of the Catholic Church and the Magdalene Sisters which I have added to my long list of things to watch. Amazingly written and left me with a lot of intrigue and questions as to what actually happened in these Laundries.
The Maidens by Alex Michaelides
Edward Fosca is a murderer. Of this Mariana is certain. But Fosca is untouchable. A handsome and charismatic Greek Tragedy professor at Cambridge University, Fosca is adored by staff and students alike—particularly by the members of a secret society of female students known as The Maidens. Mariana Andros is a brilliant but troubled group therapist who becomes fixated on The Maidens when one member, a friend of Mariana’s niece Zoe, is found murdered in Cambridge.
My rating: ★★★★
As the same author of The Silent Patient, I have had Alex Michaelides’ newest release on my list for a long time and was thrilled to find it in my local library. I will admit, this wasn’t as good as The Silent Patient but there was a little Easter egg thrown in to this book to link The Silent Patient which I enjoyed. A lot of twists and turns throughout, and I didn’t expect the ending at all. However, I reduced a star as I didn’t really understand the purpose/motivation behind the murders and the reasoning for them just didn’t click for me. A little far-fetched for me.
Bigger Than Us by Fearne Cotton
Writing this book has changed my life. I sought the insight and advice of wise minds to explore what they can teach us to achieve happiness, connection and hope. With their help, I peeled back layers of anxiety and self-limiting beliefs to find contentment and deeper meaning. From intuition and energy to manifesting, ritual, prayer and signs, I have explored positive ideas and simple exercises that are available to every single one of us. This is for anyone seeking a path through our confusing lives and offers inspiration for tapping into the strength and comfort around us and releasing the blocks and insecurities that hold us back.
My rating: ★★★
Something a little different from my usual reading habits, Bigger Than Us looks at spirituality and things like the law of attraction, past lives and the universe and how it impacts our lives and also how we can become more aware to help it influence our lives in the best way. It wasn’t my favourite self-help book ever, but it did lead me to Fearne’s podcast Happy Place which I have been enjoying a lot.
The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida by Shehan Karunatilaka
Colombo, 1990. Maali Almeida, war photographer, gambler and closet gay, has woken up dead in what seems like a celestial visa office. His dismembered body is sinking in the serene Beira lake and he has no idea who killed him. At a time where scores are settled by death squads, suicide bombers and hired goons, the list of suspects is depressingly long, as the ghouls and ghosts with grudges who cluster round can attest. But even in the afterlife, time is running out for Maali. He has seven moons to try and contact the man and woman he loves most and lead them to a hidden cache of photos that will rock Sri Lanka.
My rating: ★★★★
The winner of the 2022 Booker Prize, I went into this book with very high expectations. However as I also expected, the book was literary fiction in genre which typically means nothing much happens and that it’s all about the beauty of the writing. The seven moons indicated the time Maali had after dying to set some things straight before going to The Light. If you’ve read X Minutes, 38 Seconds in this Strange World by Elif Shafak, you’ll see some similarities. It didn’t overly excite me with the plot, but it was eye opening to read about wartime in Sri Lanka and the different political organisations in the country and also the importance of wartime photographers. Insightful and a pleasant read, but there were other books on the shortlist that I would have chosen as my winner.
Magpie by Elizabeth Day
Magpie is a tense, twisting, brilliantly written novel about mothers and children, envy and possession, and the dangers of getting everything you’ve ever dreamed of. Deliciously sinister and engrossing, Day’s atmospheric novel of motherhood, greed and obsession places a happy couple trying for a baby in the orbit of a woman who takes an unhealthy interest in their personal lives.
My rating: ★★★★
After seeing this advertised all over the London Underground last summer, I finally got my hands on this in my local library. I had heard mixed reviews so didn’t go in with high expectations. However, this was so much better than expected and I loved the twists and turns throughout. Definitely a summer read and one that will have you hooked from the outset.
The Promise by Damon Galgut
A masterpiece of a family in crisis from twice Booker-shortlisted author Damon Galgut. Set during four funerals across four decades, Galgut’s panoramic study of one white South African family’s tribulations foregrounds the intimately personal in the epic narrative of a rapidly changing nation. In this story of a diminished family, sharp and tender emotional truths hit home. Confident, deft and quietly powerful, The Promise is literary fiction at its finest.
My rating: ★★★
I had incredibly high hopes for this after hearing Jack Edwards recommend this so many times. However, I really had to wonder what Jack Edwards enjoyed about this book. The story is told in four parts, covering deaths of different members of Amor’s family. The story was incredibly slow and at times confusing as to who was speaking/thinking due to there being no speech marks throughout the book. I feel like Sally Rooney does this very well, but I didn’t enjoy it within The Promise. Not a book I’d be recommending and I’d be eager to read the other shortlisted books for the 2021 Booker Prize to see how they compare.
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